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Building enclosure professionals share advice with young women, students

Angela Gismondi
Building enclosure professionals share advice with young women, students

Women in the building enclosure consulting industry discussed the challenges and opportunities they have faced in their careers and provided tips for those considering entering the sector during a virtual event for Women & Students in the Building Sciences hosted by the International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants.

Jennifer Hogan, director of marketing and business development with Pretium Engineering Inc., said she realized early in her career that young women have to work hard to gain respect, especially on construction sites. She thinks it has more to do with age than gender.

“Most of my success with that has just come from open and honest communication,” said Hogan. “As long as we can communicate and have more of a team attitude things tend to go smoothly. Having that communication and being willing to step up and speak up and assert yourself is important in that situation because that’s how you build that respect.”

One thing that has helped her is putting herself out there.

“Sometimes that means failing or not being successful. Sometimes that means asking a ton of questions, but really that’s what will help open up additional doors for you,” she said.

Tania Krysa, manager, building restoration with MTE Consultants, said she hasn’t faced significant roadblocks in her career but recalled a particular incident when she was catcalled on one of her first jobsite visits.

“I didn’t make a big deal. I just wanted it to go away,” she said. “When I got to the office the owner of the construction company called me and said, ‘Tania, I heard what happened on site and I fired the guy.’ The owner said, ‘we have a zero-tolerance policy. If it’s not you that he called out to it could have been a resident. It could have been a client. It could have been anyone. This is just a person who does not treat other people with respect, not just women.’”

While the incident occurred almost 20 years ago, his words stuck with her.

“He said, ‘you need to advocate for yourself and don’t let these things happen to you and not speak up about it,’” she recalled. “It allows that person to continue with that behaviour towards you as well as just towards other people in general because they believe it’s accepted if you don’t say something.”

The women also talked about the importance of networking and connecting with others even though it may not always be easy.

“People really like to talk about the things that they know,” said Stephanie Robinson, director of building sciences, Eastern Canada with WSP Canada. “One of the tips that I use is that I come armed to those type of situations, whether it’s meeting new clients or colleagues, with a handful of safe questions that I know will get people talking.

“That will lead into common interests to create that natural dialogue and connection with someone.”

Krysa said a very small percentage of people feel comfortable “working a room.” She shared a piece of advice given to her by one of her colleagues.

“One of the things he said is when you start out pick the person standing alone in the corner because that is the person who doesn’t know how to start a conversation,” said Krysa. “Just approach them. It doesn’t matter what you start talking to them about because they are going to want to be engaged and be out of that lonely situation.”

Another tip is to be prepared.

“If you are being strategic and you are going to an event, try to think about who you want to talk to,” she said. “Pick those two contacts who you know are going to be there and research them. What do they like? What do they post on their LinkedIn?

“At first I thought, sounds a little creepy to me…but at the same time if they are posting on a social media outlet it is something they are comfortable putting out there and having people know about. They can be great conversation starters.”

She also said it’s important for her to plan personal experiences with her clients, not just the typical golf or sporting events.

“We shouldn’t just be assuming that a client is going to enjoy what we put in front of them,” she said. “We should actually get to know them, think about it and start being creative. Get to know the people, not even for the business but because it’s fantastic to get to know people on that level. It just makes things a lot easier and the business side of things will come.”

 

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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